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Russian Scientists Report 'Mass Death' Of Sea Life Off Kamchatka Peninsula

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry workers take water samples from waters by the village of Zavoiko on October 6.

Russian scientists say pollution has caused a mass die-off of marine life off the shoreline of the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, with poisonous substances stored in a Soviet-era underground site suspected of being behind the disaster.

A team of divers found a "mass death" of sea life at a depth of 10 to 15 meters in Avacha Bay, Ivan Usatov of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve said on October 6, adding that "95 percent are dead."

"Some large fish, prawns, and crabs are left, but only a very small number," Usatov said during a meeting with Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov.

In late September, locals reported that surfers experienced eye and skin irritation following contact with the water and posted videos showing dead seals, fish, and other marine creatures littering at least three beaches on the Avacha Bay.

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WWF Russia said on October 6 that the pollutant appeared not to be oil, but a "highly toxic transparent substance that is highly soluble in water."

Scientists and investigators are working to detect the source of the pollution, with a focus on potential manmade causes.

Solodov said that experts took samples from a nearby site opened at the end of the 1970s to store chemicals in the ground.

"The most obvious answer where the source of the pollution could be is the Kozelsky poisonous chemical site," according to the governor, who said inspectors had found sections of barbed wire cut away and damage to a protective covering.

According to Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov, the unguarded site "just by official accounts contains around 108 tons of pesticides and poisonous chemicals."

The conservancy group has sent his own team to the scene to monitor the situation.

With reporting by AFP and Meduza